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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Dr. Beecher, meantime, was absent at the East, having raised a large sum of money for the seminary, and came back only to find his labor almost hopeless. For several years, however, he and his children stayed and worked on. Mrs. Stowe opened her house to colored children, whom she taught with her own. One bright boy in her school was claimed by an estate in Kentucky, arrested, and was to be sold at auction. The half-crazed mother appealed to Mrs. Stowe, who raised the needed money among her friends, and thus saved the lad.

Finally, worn out with the "irrepressible conflict," the Beecher family, with the Stowes, came North in 1850, Mr. Stowe accepting a professorship at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. A few boarders were taken into the family to eke out the limited salary, and Mrs. Stowe earned a little from a sketch written now and then for the newspapers. She had even obtained a prize of fifty dollars for a New England story. Her six brothers had fulfilled their mother's dying wish, and were all in the ministry. She was now forty years old, a devoted mother, with an infant; a hard-working teacher, with her hands full to overflowing. It seemed improbable that she would ever do other than this quiet, unceasing labor. Most women would have said, "I can do no more than I am doing. My way is hedged up to any outside work."

But Mrs. Stowe's heart burned for those in bondage. The Fugitive Slave Law was hunting colored people and sending them back into servitude and death. The people of the North seemed indifferent. Could she not arouse them by something she could write?

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One Sunday, as she sat at the communion table in the little Brunswick church, the pattern of Uncle Tom formed itself in her mind, and, almost overcome by her feelings, she hastened home and wrote out the chapter on his death. When she had finished, she read it to her two sons, ten and twelve, who burst out sobbing, "Oh! mamma, slavery is the most cursed thing in the world."

After two or three more chapters were ready, she wrote to Dr. Bailey, who had moved his paper from Cincinnati to Washington, offering the manuscript for the columns of the National Era, and it was accepted. Now the matter must be prepared each week. She visited Boston, and at the Anti-Slavery rooms borrowed several books to aid in furnishing facts. And then the story wrote itself out of her full heart and brain. When it neared completion, Mr. Jewett of Boston, through the influence of his wife, offered to become the publisher, but feared if the serial were much longer, it would be a failure. She wrote him that she could not stop till it was done.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was published March 20,1852. Then came the reaction in her own mind. Would anybody read this book? The subject was unpopular. It would indeed be a failure, she feared, but she would help the story make its way if possible. She sent a copy of the book to Prince Albert, knowing that both he and Queen Victoria were deeply interested in the subject; another copy to Macaulay, whose father was a friend of Wilberforce; one to Charles Dickens; and another to Charles Kingsley. And then the busy mother, wife, teacher, housekeeper, and author waited in her quiet Maine home to see what the busy world would say.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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